Thursday, December 9, 2010

The end is here?

Here's a glimpse into my mental state. I was sitting in Competitive Strategy this afternoon at 1 o'clock, waiting for it to start, when my friend and neighbor cheerfully noted that this was our final class of the semester. I don't mean merely that it was our final Comp Strat class; it was, in fact, our final class, period. "By Jove," I thought. "She's right!" Man, that snuck up on me.

When I got home and realized it was Thursday, I did what I do every Thursday: Check for the latest music charts. On the landing page were large, colorful promotions for their year-end charts. "Wait a minute," I thought. "Why are they already doing year-end charts?" 'Cause it's the end of the year, I replied. (If you're curious, you can see the list here.)

These two seemingly unrelated (and uninteresting) anecdotes are meant to illustrate that this year flew by. I'm sure I will muse on the year gone by in a future posting, as it was probably the most exciting and eventful year of my life and deserves a mention. For now, though, with my classes (but not assignments) complete, having officially hit the 3/4 mark in the MBA program, here's a look back at the courses I just completed. These were all electives.

Corporate Finance, taught by Heather Tookes. My hardest class, as I predicted, but essential to having an MBA, in my opinion. I'm never going to do this stuff, but I'm glad I know a little more about it so I can follow conversations and comprehend WSJ articles more easily. In this class we covered a whole lot, including valuation techniques (how to figure out how much a firm or project is worth in dollars), capital structure (how a firm should finance projects, be it with debt or equity), strategic reasons behind investment decisions, bankruptcy, LBOs and governance. The work load was heavy, but our professor was very professional, systematic and straightforward. She won last year's excellence in teaching award, determined by the Class of 2010, and she was indeed an excellent teacher. I learned a lot.

Data-Driven Marketing, taught by Oliver Rutz. This was a very practical, real-world focused class that looked at methods for analyzing and making decisions based on secondary marketing data (i.e. real behavior, as opposed to surveys). We covered topics like demand models, logistic regression, scoring and variable selection. The point was to give us tools so we could analyze stuff like the effects of pricing, promotion and advertising strategies, how to target customers with catalogs, how Amazon does that cool thing where they recommend what you should buy, and so forth. Professor Rutz was very focused on casting the content in the context of what we might actually be doing in real life. The assignments were pretty fun because I loved my small group. The lectures were dry.

Competitive Strategy, taught by Judith Chevalier. This was a case-based discussion class (meaning we had to read a lot and be prepared to talk) about how companies can get ahead and stay ahead through the tradeoffs they make and the positions they take in an industry. We looked at many different types of industries and companies, including Disney, USA Today, Benetton, Coke/Pepsi, Coors, Du Pont and Enterprise. The discussions were usually interesting, and the work load was relatively light. This course had been recommended to me and described as the be-all end-all class at SOM, and although I think that's over-stating things a bit, I can see why this would be pretty essential and useful for students going into strategy work. Professor Chevalier created a good atmosphere, and I think everyone liked her a great deal.

Theory of Media, taught by Francesco Casetti and (a few times) John McCay. I'm glad I took this because class, which was my first foray into something at Yale outside of the School of Management, because it worked my brain in a different way. We read the seminal works by influential media theorists, covering topics like media as sensorium, as social symptoms, as a means of communication, as utopia and as prosthesis (which was the topic I found most interesting, and the subject of my final paper). We also talked about the public sphere, myths and decoding. I'll grant that this might not have been the most useful class in the world -- maybe I should have taken introductory Mandarin instead. But I enjoyed it. Professor Casetti was a fantastic lecturer. Professor McCay was clearly a brilliant person, but most of what he said went over my head, and he spoke really quickly.

Those were my four semester classes. I also had a fifth class, Venture Capital, that was only frist quarter, but I've already given my summary of that one.

This was a good semester, mostly because of the teachers. I'm especially looking forward to next semester, though, when I'll be loading up on the OB (Organizational Behavior) classes that will be more directly relevant to my full-time job at Deloitte.

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